If you were to recommend a smartphone to a first-time smartphone user, what would it be?
What if I told you there’s a smartphone that goes for almost the same amount of money that some of us would be willing to splash to satisfy our nostalgia? You know, a phone that’s a reincarnation of another that should be a teenager today?
As someone who spends his time swearing by the Android operating system and writing extensively on it, recommending the itel A32F almost comes with the territory.
This is why:
It’s very cheap
At Kshs 6,500 (its starting price, Kilimall has a discount that places the Rose Gold model at Kshs 6,000), the itel A32F is not only the cheapest Android Go smartphone in the Kenyan market but also one of the cheapest smartphones overall. Down there with the likes of Tecno’s S series and the Neon lineup from Safaricom.
In fact, the A32F’s debut in the Kenyan market led to the immediate drop in price of its chief competitor, HMD Global’s Nokia 1. The latter had its price slashed from a high of Kshs 9,500 (were they crazy?) to the current Kshs 8,000. Of course, if you ask me, that price should even get lower.
itel makes you forget, for a moment, that it’s a very cheap device
While respectable budget smartphones like the most recent Huawei device that I have had a look at, Xiaomi smartphones and others eschew things like including earphones in the box, you will still find some in the itel A32F’s packaging, however fickle and unremarkable they might be.
To be honest, it’s more than you asked for, paid for or even deserve. It’s like it is 2008 all over again. Oh, and they still even make room to include a plastic back cover that you may not have much use for given the phone’s already bulky design and sturdy feel.
Throughout the one month I got to try on the itel A32F, at no point did it ever feel fragile. Even though I never got to drop it, nor would I advocate anyone who’s parted with their hard-earned Kshs 6,000 to do so, I always felt that the device could survive a drop.
Of course, there’s what really matters: Android Go
The primary reason why the itel A32F is a smartphone of interest to many of us is because of what powers it: Android Oreo, Go Edition, what we simply refer to as Android Go.
Android Go means that buyers of the device not only get a desirable experience but also have some of their greatest concerns, like having to spend more on data bundles, addressed.
The “Go apps” that come pre-installed on the itel A32F, and pretty much every other Android Go smartphone, are developed with savings not just on system resources like the battery (highlighted above), memory consumption and usage of storage space but also the data necessary to get them working. Google wants users to send emails, make searches and watch videos without having to constantly look over their shoulders.
A fingerprint sensor
The itel A32F happens to be the only Android Go-powered smartphone out there that I know of that has a fingerprint scanner. In the Kenyan market, it’s already a given that it is the only one of its kind that has the feature as everyone else hoards it for their other budget devices.
And the fingerprint sensor works just as expected. In fact, even more. It can be customized to do more things besides unlocking the device. Like take photos or start recording videos, answer calls, record them etc.
One more thing…
Much as I appreciate the itel A32F for what it is – a cheap, mostly no-frills smartphone that brings our beloved mobile OS to the masses, I have been put off by one thing: the device is not your usual Android Go smartphone. The user interface has been modified to carry on itel’s software identity. While the Go ethos live on in the feature implementation and all, users who are keen will be quick to notice the slight modifications.
There is also addition of apps that you’d otherwise not find on devices that run unadulterated Android Go. Apps like Boomplay, the music app that belongs to the device maker.
The good thing about this is that it mostly works to the user’s benefit. While people like yours truly may not have much use for Boomplay, I do appreciate the effort put to make sure there’s a decent file manager app on the itel A32F. Google doesn’t do a good job with the file manager on devices running stock or near-stock Android. Good thing there’s FilesGo these days, the automatic recommendation for users who won’t be satisfied with the stock file manager. I also wish itel did the same thing with the photo app.
There’s no out-and-out image gallery. Instead, like all Android One and Android Go devices, users will have to make do with Google Photos. Don’t get me wrong, Google Photos is an excellent app. But… I prefer something else for my go-to gallery app. I’ve ranted about this before.
The effort to make performance on the device better, beyond the work Google has already put into Go, is there for everyone to see. There’s an app to clear cache and junk files to speed up things, there’s the App Freeze for when you need to clear everything and start over. And there’s DuraSpeed as well. Much as I discourage task killers and almost never focus on such add-ons, I feel that they are important on a device of the A32F’s profile.
Heck, there’s even a one-handed mode, just incase you happen to feel that the itel A32F’s 5-inch display is too big to handle.
It’s probably these slight tweaks and changes to the interface that have resulted in better-than-expected battery life. It’s not enough to have lowly specifications as I have painfully found out previously on entry-level devices that I have used.
The itel A32F’s overall design and display won’t be winning any awards (not now, not ever) nor will its cameras stand out as those on devices that cost twice as much as it does or more but it is what it brings to the table overall and its price that is bound to get your attention.
Where its competitors one-up it, support for 4G LTE networks, it makes up for in the price.
For Kshs 6,500 or less, you get a phone that is worth upgrading to from a feature phone or just a phone for your daily use when you don’t have much to spend on a device. There’s software that Google has optimized for the kind of hardware the itel A32F packs and there’s the fingerprint sensor that you’ll be hard-pressed to find on other Android Go smartphones or similarly-priced smartphones.